50 Shades Of Grey Jedi

Looking at this entire post before putting it up, and I’m stunned by the sheer lunacy of the entire topic. But, I promised people I would put in my two cents, and added a couple of coins more in the end and really does drive the point home that people will argue anything and everything if they think about it for too long. I hope this helps, and welcome discussion. Any flaming will get deleted. You have been warned.

Several years ago, I had attended the wedding of my two best friends. Both of them were members of New York Jedi, the lightsaber stage combat group, and quite a few of the attendees were members past and present. After the ceremony, I had the privilege of meeting a former member whom was known by the nickname ‘Jester’ (I don’t have permission to use her real name). Of course, we got to talking about our time in Jedi, and she asked me about my character.

Any roleplayer will tell you how dangerous that question is to ask. It opens up the potential to murder hours of hearing someone’s full backstory. I was no different. I told Jester of Ianto Uilos, known to many as ‘Rave’. Rave was a Jedi Shadow, part of the order that served as Dark Side hunters both outside and inside the Jedi. Part hunter, part secret police. On the day of his Knighting, he had come to an epiphany that the Jedi Order, whom had espoused the virtues of the Light Side before, should not reward someone who was for all intents and purposes an assassin and bounty hunter of other Force Users. He refused the right of knighting, and left the order. However, by the time he made his decision he knew hunting the Dark Side was what he was good at, what he could do. He became a freelance Shadow, and protected others against the Dark Siders and Sith. He was no longer a Jedi, he had become Grey.

“Oh,” Jester said with the weariness of a veteran. “Another one”. The resulting conversation revealed that quite a lot of those in the community often had similar stories of being non-typical Jedi, or people who were not connected to the Order at all, but were not Sith. Everyone wanted to be the hero, no one wanted to portray the Jedi.

This is something that crops up a lot, not just in the storytelling corner of the Star Wars Fan Community , but everywhere. People don’t want to be Jedi, especially those viewed in the movies.  They were the default good guys in the story, whether they were interesting or not. They were bland, nearly indistinguishable in their near matching robes, and ultimately disposable unless they were important to the plot.

A case in point. Several years back (and after my talk with Jester) I had seen a show performed by another local group. It was a story about the Jedi and Sith racing to get a macguffin to stop/cause the summoning of a Dark Side Eldritch Abomination. The Sith were a distinct group, with clear storylines. The Jedi were a gestalt collective, with many of them not given name nor character, save for the designated main Jedi. I spoke to the writer afterwards and asked them who the protagonist was. “The Jedi, of course.” They said.

The problem was they weren’t, The Jedi were the de facto ‘heroes’ of the story. But the plot was defined and driven by the Sith and the lead Sith were given the most to do and experienced the most change. The Sith were the center of the show, and the preference for the Sith showed throughout. This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you know where your biases lie. This trend got to be so bad from the local community that the Jedi were just there to turn to the dark side at the drop of a dime. When pushed, several members told me that the Jedi were boring compared to the Sith.

A lot of this perception is thanks largely to the depiction of the Jedi Order in the Prequels and subsequent materials. Dressed similarly, and often speaking in wooden dialogue, even the stars have a hard time making their characters feel like they are alive. To be brutally honest, this can be said of the entirety of the characters in the prequels. It comes from having to act in a blue screen void with half the cast CGI and only having to rely on a script that made everything feel forced and relied on telling everyone rather than showing.

Even without bad writing, being a member of the Jedi Order is a hard sell for anyone. Jedi and Sith are extremes on the Force and how to use it. The Sith are about the individual , what I want, when I want it, as I want it. The Force is a tool for them to use to manifest their will. The Jedi on the other hand were about the universal we. What is good for all, regardless of personal desires. Their entire drama is the eternal struggle between the needs of the many and their own needs. This is part and parcel of the Jedi Code:

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force

Many people take the code for dogma, and not as a mantra to center a practitioner in the moment. This is a problem both in the real world and in the universe, as many Jedi feel that following the Code as dogmatic law is a hindrance to actually doing anything. Those who do not follow dogmatic law, or the Jedi overall, were dubbed Grey Jedi.

So I have a problem with the term Grey Jedi. I’m going to list them and begin to discuss how they can work and why the can’t.

First off, the terminology of Grey tells you exactly one thing: These are the

Ilos Marr
The Miraluka, for example evolved beyond the need for eyes, and could see through the Force. And yes, that is me.

Jedi who are somehow different. The Jedi are the far extreme of the Light Side, they aren’t the whole of the Light Side. The term implies that unless you’re Sith, you’re a Jedi. This is silly, and denotes the low key arrogance that the Order was levying (and lack of originality on the writers).

The Jedi were the largest organization that worshiped and represented (as much as you can for a non anthropomorphic concept) the Light Side. They weren’t the only ones. There were entire orders and even species that worshiped the light side of the Force. How do they factor in to that whole “Grey Side” situation?

My other main problem to the notion of the Grey Side is one of Setting. Star Wars is a Space Opera that runs on certain rules. There is a universal concept known as the Force that exists in all things. There is a Dark Side to that Force, which is seductive, addictive, and destructive. There is another side to that, which others have taken to call the Light Side, but it is often simply called The Force. And there is the sense that it is somehow aware and guiding. 

Every character, Force Sensitve or not, is on one side or the other. Light or Dark The Empire tries to suppress the Force for only the Sith, the Rebellion invokes the Force in prayer at the end of briefings. Vader and Palpatine on the Dark Side, and Luke on the other, and everyone in between.

SithJediMaggieCraig
It’s that easy, and that complicated

And I do mean everyone. If you are a character that continues throughout the series in some form or another, you are clearly on the side of Light or the Side of Dark. Despite Han Solo’s opinion that no cosmic Force guides his hand, it’s clear that he happens to be the right person at the right moment for the heroes. Mysterious is the Force. Boba Fett was already on the Dark Side, so much so that Vader had to restrain him against disintegration. Lando, as we see in Empire could have easily have gone to the Dark Side, let the Empire take Luke and company with them and let him and his people live in peace. He chooses to not only help the Rebellion but join them.

If the Force is everywhere and a part of everyone, then everyone is in as much involved in this than the Jedi and Sith are.

So when people create a character, or write a story set in this world. I stress to them this one key thing: In a war against the Light Side and the Dark, what side do you choose. You don’t have to be a Jedi or Sith, they are organizations. But what side do you chose to be on? The good of all, or the good of One. Light or Dark?

That Manichean attitude of Light vs. Dark/Good vs. Evil is not a concept a lot of people really think about. In a world of grey morality, sympathetic villains and self righteous heroes, that’s a hard pill to swallow. And in a society where personal self interest is touted, I believe that very few people wouldn’t default to the Dark Side. There’s a charming thought, right?

I should be clear that while I have a problem with the term Grey Jedi, I don’t have a problem with people who chose not to be Jedi. Jedi have their faults (especially as written) and the high standard their Code sets makes living that life very hard. It would be a hard choice for anyone to make and live with.

My main problem, however, is this:

13620306_10153838253566553_2916122056059056876_n
I do dig the coat though….

This code has been making the rounds through the fandom for years. I am not aware of the source of the code, but it’s one that’s been touted the most. I object to it for several reasons. The first is, as I said before, that there is a Dark and Light Side. The second is that it’s less of a mantra and more of a rant with someone who had read too much Tolkien and Song of Ice and Fire:

“I am a servant of the Secret Fire,
wielder of the flame of Anor.
You cannot pass.
The dark fire will not avail you,”
– Gandalf

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death.
I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.
I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.
I shall live and die at my post.
I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls.
I am the shield that guards the realms of men.
I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

– Oath of the Night’s Watch

See what I mean? The writer of this seems particularly pyromantic, emphasis on pyro and romantic.

The major problem, and one I want people who argue this to keep in mind is this: Where is the line? Where is the line between the Light and the Dark Side. If you can fall to one, and be redeemed to another, where is the space where the space between? Many people can argue that it’s just those not Jedi and Sith, I’ve already argued that the Jedi and Sith are merely organizations and we’re discussing the Force itself. Also, this code makes it sound like an organization of its own.

So where is the line? Where does someone fall to the Grey? Are they those who remain neutral, doing nothing and contemplating the greater mysteries of the universe? The code above makes it more active than that. They sound like a force to police the Light and Dark. However, that brings us back to the original question: How do we gauge the line between the Dark and Light. The Force is a Universal constant that does not seem to be quantifiable in any real sense. The video games don’t count either because even there you are only rewarded for choosing the Light or Dark, not the middle.

So, how do those who follow this code draw the line on something that makes up the cosmos? That would take a level of enlightenment that would rival Sidious and Yoda, two of the most powerful force users in history and even THEY screwed up. Likely not, and the definition would be based on their own perceptions and biases, and they would impose their own will to maintain what they would see as Balance.

Imposing one’s own will to enforce their own whims and biases? That’s not Grey, that’s Dark, and not the more forgivable shades of Dark. Look at the Grey code again, we’ve already established that the Dark Side and Sith are about the I, and there are a lot of Is in that code.

Personally, I think most of those who adhere to this Grey code are those who just want to play out being a Force User, twirl around a glowstick, and not have to decide between the Jedi or Sith. You can do both! But again, you need to decide what side you’d fall on in times of war. The series is called Star Wars, there is a conflict going on. It’s an eternal one and it’s about the whole universe. You want to play with the Forces of the universe? You have to abide by it’s rules.

Otherwise, you look more like an adherent of this code:
1929332_10100165302145323_7878645461254864979_n

I know that many of my readers have come here for lightsabers. But as I’ve said before, if we’re going to talk lightsabers, we need to look at those who wielded it. Doesn’t matter our disciplines in using it. Storytelling, martial arts, competition, all of them require that we look at the culture we’re invoking when we do this, otherwise what’s the point?

Hope this helped.

Next up, we will talk about Lightsaber Combats 101: the Marks of Contact and Tactical tools. In the future, I’ll also do a write up for how the Jedi and Sith can be portrayed to make both interesting and compelling.

June 2017 Update: Jedi post located here

Special thanks to Jenn Bechtel for the two photos from the Ashes of the Empire larp, and for the amazing Maggie Lee for being an awesome roleplayer with perfect Sith ensemble.

 

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10 thoughts on “50 Shades Of Grey Jedi

  1. wow I love this article! also there is a fallacy built into the whole grey argument. Power in the force comes from being more in tune with one of the sides. the farther from the middle ground you get, the more powerful you are. The force is a polarizing factor. that’s why padawans and younger jedi are not as powerful as the masters, and the masters not as powerful as yoda. Yoda is the most light of all the light siders. This is where is power in the force comes from. likewise darksiders. so even if you could be grey, you would be toatally powerless. You are not of the light, so it isn’t going to answer your call. you are not of the dark, and so cant use its power either.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this posting and the points that you made. In playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. In considering the philosophies of Jedi/Sith as pertaining to my own life, I found the Grey Jedi Code very appealing when I first came across it, but I loved what you said about how, “Many people take the code for dogma, and not as a mantra to center a practitioner in the moment. This is a problem both in the real world and in the universe, as many Jedi feel that following the Code as dogmatic law is a hindrance to actually doing anything” (Paragraph 10). This (and the rest of the essay) got me thinking about my views and changed my mind.

    Instead of taking the dogmatic view of the Jedi Code, I think it is an ideal that each Jedi strives to achieve in his or her own life. Despite being raised to follow the code from a young age (in most cases), Jedi are still flawed beings seeking to attain the ideal described in the Code.

    Thank you for a thought provoking piece of writing.

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  3. An interesting read, and a lot of really good points. it does however leave me wondering how you feel that the Je’daii Order fits in to all of this. Yes they are now legends, but very few Star Wars fans have thrown out all of the Legendary EU universe just because it’s no longer strictly canon.
    ” There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
    There is no fear; there is power.
    I am the heart of the Force.
    I am the revealing fire of light.
    I am the mystery of darkness
    In balance with chaos and harmony,
    Immortal in the Force. “

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  4. OK. I’ve been thinking about this since I read this the other day. You say that it is Star Wars. It’s about the battle between good and evil and every one would fall into one of the two camps on some level of the spectrum so they should pick a side. But, isn’t that exactly what destroyed they Jedi. The war wasn’t their war. But they chose a side and fought… and fell… and were destroyed. Lets think about it in terms of the great schism. There was the Je’daii (Or original Jedi Order if you prefer. ) The were pretty non confrontational, and sought to follow the force wherever it led. The Force led some to atrocities, and others to enlightenment. At some point, the enlightened decided that the atrocities must be stooped. And the light and the dark went to war. The moment that they declared to kill another being over the direction the Force had taken them, they stopped following the Force and decided to control it. Both the Light and the Dark decided to make the Force it’s tool rather than their Master. If some had walked away at this point and continued to truly follow the Force. To NOT pick a side, but go were the Force led them… They would be the only true Jedi left. And I hardly think that having made that decision would make them boring.

    Just my thought…

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  5. To answer both. The Je’daii I think get it right in a lot of ways in that they acknowledge and try to work with both aspects of the Force in a balanced meter. However, they fail. We know they fail. We know that from the ashes of the Je’daii, both the Jedi and Sith orders are founded. The Je’daii failed, at least philosophically, by imposing what they believed to be balance on an organizational level. The Force, as is noted, is not a quantifiable element. It’s pervasive and open to subjective thoughts and clearly there is some sapience if it has a Will (which there is nothing suggesting it doesn’t).

    In short, I don’t think Balance works. Balance implies stasis and that doesn’t work. The key to it working is Harmony.

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  6. I think it’s important to note, as well, that the Lightside is portrayed in media as that which strives for Balance, while the Darkside is that which ignores the Balance for selfish gain and this drives Imbalance. Key examples are the Mortis arc of Clone Wars in which the Father refers to the Son as “falling to the Darkside”, indicating that he is not inherently Darkside. We also have the sheer fact of the Jedi trying (and failing miserably in the PT) to balance outward (sometimes aggressive and destructive) action with inner peace and reflection. And the primary text on this point is, for me, Obi-Wan’s discussion with Luke:

    Luke: “You mean it controls your actions?”
    Obi-Wan: “Partially. But it also boats your commands.”

    This indicates to me that the Jedi / Ligtside way is to exist in this dynamic and constantly fluid Balance, to live on this slippery slope. While the Sith / Darkside way is to attempt to control, ignoring the surrendering aspect, and avoid the slippery slope.

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  7. I found this to be a really well thought out and phrased post. you have a number of excellent points as well. I guess being someone who want’s to believe in the extra special middle ground of gray, I can see and even completely agree with your assessment yet there are always those odd anomalies they creep up. (I work 7 years in surgery, one of the things you learn in school is you spend X amount of time doing the right thing, X amount of time probably doing the wrong thing, and most of your carrier in the big ass gray area in the middle.)

    Episode 4 was release the same year I was born in 77, I have literally never known life without star wars but the Grey Jedi is something I more recently started to hear about however. I actually never really thought about how a Grey would fit into the whole and your points are all very valid. Far to many people don’t know rich back story outside of the movies and with the Force Awakens that makes it even more so as so much of what I have always taken for granted as “history” no longer applies. But a lot of the star wars lore before the little back to the future sidetrack is still far game, or at least I think it is 😉 so you still have the rich history of the Old Republic, the Jedi Order, the Sith Empire, and countless other sub-groups all the way back to the Je’daii to fall back on. One of my own pet peeves is constantly hearing out Luke/Vader/emperor are the most powerful such and such to ever exist. This is not a true fact, not even close.

    While yes the movies lean heavily on the idea of a chosen one, that by no means implies they are the most powerful. Nor does the fall of the Republic/Jedi means we have a Sith Emperor for life crowned ether. Their are still many examples in star wars lore where both sides had almost wiped the other out for good and many stories of past masters who if even a quarter of their tail is correct would simple leave our main characters with Jar Jar’s special needs day care in the hope that none of them would put their eye out with that thing.

    That said, you are absolutely correct about the concept of a Grey Jedi is not possible, not in any really measurable way at least. The whole concept of the force is most simply put into black and white perspective. Nice, neat, and clean… but that’s not life. Life is lived in the gray. Even some races have/had strong ties to one side or their other. I don’t think you can truly say the light or the dark side any more measurable however. People, places, even idea’s have an ebb and flow through time. Jedi master fall, an occasionally sith has a moment of weakness and show’s mercy. It’s all ever changing.

    So when I first hear of the idea of a Grey Jedi my first thought was and still is Revan. maybe not so much KOTOR but more from the book. I think what people are grasping for is Revan. As you pointed out the Jedi are in truth, pretty annoying. They like every bad Sunday school story wrapped in one robe, the on the other spectrum is emotions so extreme you don’t really make choices you just jump on to the worst thing possible and hold on like an 8 second ride. And truthfully, I get it. Everyone want’s to be the adventures hero but no one want’s to be the preacher of the serial killer. So I think everyone tries to wrap their own view into the idea of a Gray.

    But the just takes me back to Revan, it’s only truly defined arch-type there is for a “Gray” but what I always thought made Revan stand out was going back and forth between light and dark, or even that you have to experience both to be a “Gray” in Revan’s case it’s what I would probable call a perfect storm. An in depth understanding and practical knowladge of the force across the spectrum. Deep understanding of what it means to put all emotion aside and what it’s like to just let it rip. But I think most importantly the ability to see oneself clearly, and to see that trying to fit into a mold of any kind it’s an unnatural limit put on by yourself. Revan was not at his strongest when he was trying to be one thing or another, but he was something entirely referent and almost unheard of when walking an extreme tight rope right down the middle (I.E. letting his emotions fuel his power but acting and reacting using just logic) and I think if their ever was a true definition to a Gray Jedi it would simple be that. Knowing what’s down both path’s to their extremes but more importantly, the wisdom to see every path for it’s strength and weakness and then the will power to not take the easy way (light or dark) but to glide as close as you can to the center point of both. Or if simply phrased as a word problem, how close can you bring a highly charged positive and genitive together and come up with a true 0 sum?

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  8. Grey Jedi is the real freedom. If we accept that life is both dark and light, we are free. I know Grey Jedi is a fantasy concept, but this concept works in real life. I see that’s rare a kind of philosophy that mix both left and right hand path. People in west only talk about choosing one path, saying that the right hand path is a lie, but the left hand path, the path of individuation, is like the sith path, full of rules etc The person has to be very perfect to be a sith, the same i say about left hand path for exemple. I think life needs a balance. Sometimes we cant be so hash with ourselves, or we would die in a heart attack or something in the brain. The sith is very HASH, while the jedi is very hippie, we just have to mix both to live life. Being hash all the time can make someone die in heart attack, for not being able to face the hard situations of life. But being a hippie, will make someone be a coward, and he will fear death and stay in home as a hermit, not facing life anymore. Being a misoginist like jedi, the guy becomes a complete coward, but wanting to become the alpha male like the sith, the guy becomes too hash with him, that he becomes depressed and full of hatred. Grey Jedi is about mixing both things. There are times to the light and times to the dark. Just like Rahu and Ketu in vedic astrology. There are times to peace and happyness, and there are times to war and death. The universe is this duality. It’s not a fight between good and evil, but to embrace both things. Grey Jedi is about FREEDOM. EMBRACE BOTH LIGHT AND DARK AND YOU WILL BE A FREE PERSON.

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